Seven Cs of a good leader | Inquirer Opinion
No Free Lunch

Seven Cs of a good leader

/ 04:07 AM October 19, 2021

Once again, we are going into the exercise of choosing the person to lead our nation through the next six years. We must stop looking for the perfect president among the candidates because there is no such animal. But we certainly must shun the clearly bad ones and choose the one we feel could best lead us in shaping a better country for all Filipinos. There are seven Cs I am personally watching out for in making my choice:

Character, for me, is topmost. Any president will receive all kinds of advice from all directions and widely differing perspectives, but in the end, it is his/her character, principles, and judgment that will determine which and whose advice will be adopted. We must therefore feel comfortable and confident that the leader will decide and act based not on self-interest, not on what is popular or convenient, but on what is right—that is, what promotes the greatest good for the greatest number.


Competence is important, as it equips the leader to understand the alternatives that would yield the greatest good for the greatest number. While no one should expect our president to be a jack of all trades, an educational background that equips him/her with essential principles in key fields like economics; law; natural, physical, and social sciences; and the liberal arts would best combine with the top requisite of good character, to make for sound decision-making. It’s not enough to rationalize that the leader could rely on the advice of well-chosen Cabinet members on matters s/he is not technically equipped for. His/her very choice of who to appoint to key positions in government will hinge on the same character, principles, and judgment described above. That is why it is paramount.

Consistency means being guided by a clear set of principles and remaining faithful to them. We have seen enough leaders who were only too willing to contradict themselves later on policies, decisions, and even pronouncements earlier made, when political winds blow in another direction, or personal interest gets in the way. Courage is thus related to this. To me, it means that the leader will have an unshakeable political will to do what is right, even when political or populist pressures push him/her in a different direction.


Cohesiveness (as against divisiveness) is something I wrote about last week, as I stressed that unifying leadership is vital to having our nation move and surge forward. Our leader must be able to effectively bridge the social, political, economic, and cultural differences that divide Filipinos, and effect national unity where justice and the rule of law prevail. It obviously does not imply unification with criminals and enemies of the state but implies cohesion among all principled Filipinos sharing the common dream of a nation whose citizens live in comfort and prosperity, with no one left behind. For a national leader, magnanimity and statesmanship are a must, and again, these hinge crucially on the person’s character.

Capability as a leader to me implies the ability to bring out the best in people and officials s/he leads, and inspire them to change. Such was the leadership I felt serving in the Cabinet of President Fidel V. Ramos, who articulated a clear vision for the country that people could identify with. And he led like a playing coach, harnessing teamwork to aim for the vision he clearly owned, and not simply mouthed. Our next leader must be such.

Finally, Charisma is important, not only for “winnability,” but more so for effective leadership. It means a leader who inspires. It means a leader who is humble and has empathy with the people, especially the marginalized. It means a leader who does not claim to know everything but listens both with his/her ears and heart. Charisma will also help him/her push for the right reforms even when they are unpopular—and there are, unfortunately, many of these.

By now, Filipinos should have all learned from experience with past presidents what kind of president we should not have. We should have also learned by now what kind of values and attitudes we as a people should not have as we choose our leaders—and this could well be the harder part.


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TAGS: 2022 elections, candidates, No Free Lunch, opinion
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